MEATLiquor, Leeds – Restaurant Review
by Matt Callard
Like all good foodie athletes, you’ve got to prepare well for MEATLiquor. First, you’ve got to find the damn thing. This branch (there are 12 nationwide and one more on the way) is tucked away in a Leeds side street that I’ve not been on since Our Price closed in the late eighties. And once you do find it you’ve got to head down a dark (and slightly foreboding) set of stairs that probably look great at half seven on a Friday night with your pals in tow. Then, you could imagine you’re dropping down in to some florid den of iniquity. But on a Sunday afternoon with a two-year-old on your shoulder they are just, well, a little bit gloomy.
So stepping down I’m prepared for some of the big, bad attitude that leaps from the restaurant chain’s branding – all crazy hybrid animals and dangerous-sounding food descriptions. Heck, there’s even S#!T on the menu (no, no, the expletive, I mean – not the, erm, thing).
First sight of the interior doesn’t disappoint. There’s a fabulous decorative ceiling, large paintings and posters of said animal hybrids along with a dark, wooden, casual style that echoes American bourbon bars serving T-bone steaks to plaid shirted men. There’s even a pool table for maximum authenticity points.
Thankfully, however, the ‘tude doesn’t spread to the service. It’s warm, welcoming and agreeably informal (my two-year-old is even given a drawing pad and pencils to help his choc milkshake go down). We sit at a well-worn wooden table and, thanks to our prep, dive in to the menu for what we know will be a calorific overload of US-style fry-food with a clear side homage to Man Vs Food (there’s even a ten minute glutton challenge on the menu if you’re stupid enough).
So between us we order Hippie Fries (£5.50 – with caramelised onion and mustardy mayo) and Gravy Cheese Fries (£6 – as they sound) with a Dead Hippie burger (£8.75) and a Chicken Tower Block Burger (£8.75). But at MEATliquor, as the name suggests, the drinks are as vital as the food. So there’s a Big Lebowski-inspired White Russian Shake (£7.50) for me and a rather ambitious (i.e her first time) Brown Cow Root Beer Float (£5.50) for her included.
When they come, they’re dished up together informally on a tray with a roll of kitchen paper and it’s time to take the plunge.
The Hippie Fries are slim and crispy – exactly as you’d want – but the caramelised onion needs work. It’s limp and sort of lukewarm from the fries and it doesn’t complement the subtle mustard dressing at all. It somehow needs to be crisper and sharper. Here, after 10 minutes, you end up with soggy fries and a mish-mash of unappealing onion and mayo. Surely it would be better presented on the side where you can dip your fries at leisure.
The Hippie Burger is excellent. Real, good quality patties with gherkins and lettuce and, this time, the Hippie sauce really works, gently infusing the meat with a subtle sharpness. Essentially, it’s a designer Big Mac – but an excellent one. Even better, unlike most so-called gourmet burgers, it manages to stay together in your hands for the duration and doesn’t overspill the bun and go down your shirt.
My partner’s chicken burger is the real deal. There’s a terrific ‘slaw dressing that cuts through the deep fried and tender meat and a tasty (not greasy) hash brown to top it off.
For me, though, the drink is the real star. I can imagine popping back down the stairs on a night out to sample the Kahlua Shake again. Moreish doesn’t do the creamy concoction justice – and there’s just enough bite from the vodka to remind you this is adult fun and definitely not for the kids.
My partner’s root beer is just as entertaining – but for another reason entirely. Root beer is as common in America as fish and chips is over here. Children grow up on the stuff – but it is absolutely an acquired taste. Even softened here with a dollop of ice cream, the notorious medicinal qualities make the drink impossible for my partner to stomach. Still, credit to her for trying. She orders a Coke Float to calm her down. Yes folks, root beer for the uninitiated can be a troublesome beast – so go there with care.
Burger and beer joints in Leeds are ten-a-penny at the moment, but the end product in many is lacklustre. Not so at MEATliquor. It’s an experience where meaty mains and innovative drinks combine to create the authentic American bar experience in downtown Leeds.
If that’s your thing, give it a go.
MEATliquor Trinity Leeds, Bank Street, Behind Victoria’s Secret, Leeds, LS1 5AT
MON – WED: 12:00 – 23:00
THURS: 12:00 – 00:00
FRI – SAT: 12:00 – 01:00
SUN: 12:00 – 23:00
0113 379 0000